Understanding rape, solving climate change

Aug 22, 2012 by

Chris Tackett
Science / Climate Change
August 21, 2012

If We Can’t Understand Rape, How Can We Solve Climate Change?


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Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.), who is challenging Sen. Claire McCaskill in the Missouri Senate race, recently defended his belief that abortion should be illegal, even in cases of incest and rape, by claiming that, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

Um, what?

Thinking people everywhere responded by pointing out how inaccurate and ridiculous Akin’s statement is.

Responding to the controversy, Discovery News helpfully refreshes our memory on the basic, basic, science of the birds and bees:

When a viable sperm penetrates a viable egg inside a woman’s reproductive tract, the result is a fertilized egg that can then implant in the uterus. That fact of life is consistent regardless of how that sperm and egg met up, including whether or not the sperm was ejaculated during rape.

“Physiologically, if the sperm is in the vagina, a pregnancy can occur, regardless of the circumstances of how that sperm got there,” said Dr. Melisa Holmes, an ob-gyn and founder of Girlology, an organization that promotes healthy sexuality and communication in families.

That’s helpful, but GEEZ. It’s 2012 and scientists and doctors and journalists and citizens are really having to spend precious time explaining how babies are made. To a US Congressman! What the heck!?

It’s expected that people will have different opinions on what policy should be enacted by our government, but we have a serious problem when people are trying to base their policy ideas on their own set of facts.

Ta-Nahesi Coates made an important point in The Atlantic when he noted how what this Akin affair is really about is the desire of politicians to have their own facts and the power that that provides.

“At any rate, I think what’s interesting here is the assumed power. I have the right to objectively define pregnancy from rape as rare. I have the right to determine separate legitimate rape from all those instances when you were in need of encouragement, wearing a red dress or otherwise asking for it. I have the right to manufacture scientific theories about your body — theories which reinforce my power. If the body doesn’t “shut that whole thing down” then clearly you weren’t raped, and there’s no need to talk about an abortion. And even if I am wrong on every count, I still have the right to dictate the terms of your body and the remaining days of your life.”

Coates concludes by saying, “the idea of putting medicine in the hands of people who think that, in the instance of rape, the female body can “shut that whole thing down” or “secrete a certain secretion” to prevent pregnancy is utterly terrifying. Essentially these dudes are answering medical questions by citing magic.”

Indeed. And this magical thinking doesn’t stop with abortion.

Consider the many outrageous things politicians (mostly Republican, mostly male) have said about women, science, climate change and the realities of the world we live in.

  • Of course, we have Akin’s ridiculous statement about rape and pregnancy, which, as Mother Jones highlights, is not the first time a Republican has made such a claim. This voodoo science goes back decades on The Right.
  • Upset that a science panel had predicted dangerous sea level rise, Republicans in North Carolina voted this summer to make it illegal for scientists to predict sea level rise. Really.
  • Last week, Kentucky Republicans complained that the national ACT exam standards should be changed to not test on evolution, because Kentucky students tested so poorly on the subject.
  • This Spring, Tennessee passed a law that allows climate change denial and creationism to be taught as science.
  • Louisiana’s Republican-led school voucher program spends taxpayer money on schools that teach all sorts of crazy bullshit. Dinosaurs and humans co-existed, dragons are real, etc.

These are just a few examples from the last couple weeks and months. This stuff has been happening for years and has become so normal, that it takes something truly crazy like Akin’s statement to cut through and become a topic of discussion nationally.

I was shocked to learn that Akin is a member of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. Not surprisingly, Akin holds no degrees in science or technology.

This guy helps lead our nations science and technology policy. Let that just wash over you.

How are we ever going to solve a global crisis like climate change if we have such ignorance polluting our government and politicians intent on ensuring our education system raises a new generation of science illiterate citizens?

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